To forget about it all, he used to shut himself away in his room and create an imaginary world. “With all this moving from place to place, I developed a terrific energy.” He read, and before he learnt to read he looked. Later on, the influences on his work were drawn from “Pepito” and “Krazy Kat”, and not, as you might expect, from the “Le Concombre masqué”. He began drawing without really being aware of it, like all children, but gradually discovered that he could do it a bit better than most. “It enabled me to understand myself, though not in psychopathic sort of way, because it also enabled me to understand others.”
From 1983 to 1991, he was in exile, in a private school in Lyons. “I spent eight years being totally bored, without meeting a single interesting person.” At 18, armed with his baccalauréat diploma in arts subjects, he returned to Paris and began to find a market for his drawings in publications for children. In 1993, to please his father, he took his work more seriously and set up a communications agency with a couple of friends. “You had to get companies accustomed to cartoon strips, but the sales canvasser did not even send out the prospecting letters.” In short, things did not work out very well, he ended up doing layout work, was unhappy and set off to follow his initial instinct.
Things became clearer: you should always follow your instincts. Branching out on his own, he drew for Spirou, Disney and the communications agencies which had previously been his rivals. He gained experience, but felt frustrated: he wanted to tell stories. And so, in 1998, he began working at the Atelier des Vosges. At the same time, he met Vehlmann. Their partnership is very productive: “That ‘Samedi et Dimanche’ is something so overwhelming that you have to keep it under control. We discuss things, then we manage to refocus – we have a lot of fun, our way of working together is just about perfect.”
Toward the end of 2001, Gwen left the Atelier des Vosges. In May 2002, he moved into a new studio (almost – there was just a bit of work to be done), with, among others, his friend Matthieu Bonhomme. Between a couple of loads of rubble, he wrote in bistros and drew at home, working on both his solo series “Basile Bonjour” and on the adventures of “Samedi et Dimanche”, the first work of which he has been proud: “If everything I had drawn before that were to disappear, it would not matter.”
Having become an adult too soon, he continues to keep alive (only) the good aspects of childhood – the freshness, the surprise. What interests him is managing to introduce his basic beliefs into a cartoon which is open, emotional and seemingly naive, which speaks to everyone. Hence the confusion among booksellers, who have no idea where to place “Samedi et Dimanche”. Children’s books or adults’ books? Simple – it has to be shelved among the adults’ books because it is for them, the children will still find it.
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